Saturday, 5 December 2009

Albums Of The Decade: #26

Gorillaz - Gorillaz [2001]

Several times I wrote Demon Days and several times I hesitated. Is it better than their debut? Is it? Critics around the world hailed the follow-up as a classic, the blueprint for Gorillaz's amazing hologrammatic live performances and the crowning moment of Monkey - not to mention the new album, currently in the making. it?

No. Gorillaz is the better album, and not just because it came first. But while I remember: I don't want to do what many reviewers did with Demon Days and call it an 'accomplishment', because that's incredibly wanky. But even if the album isn't an accomplishment, the Gorillaz project is. Improbable tours, hugely interactive websites (well, Jamie Hewlett has to do something with his time) - a world-conquering cartoon band, and it began here.

Track by track, song by song, Gorillaz is a masterpiece. It's deep as a puddle but that's what Punk is there for - clap, clap, clap. It's hard to pick out individual highlights because each track is excellent in its own way, but New Genious [sic] (Brother) and camp closing singalong M1 A1 are good places to start, not to mention Clint Eastwood and 19-2000 with their fantastic videos.

While Demon Days drowns in its guest stars - there's a reason the cameo-less O Green World is the best song on there - Gorillaz ensures less is more. Ibrahim Ferrer crops up, as does Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, but really it's just Del Tha Funkee Homosapien's guest spots on singles Rock The House and they'll-never-top-it Clint Eastwood.

Compare this to the following list of guest stars and you see why in Demon Days Gorillaz's sense of identity (if a fictitious band can have an identity) is diluted:

- De La Soul
- Neneh Cherry
- Shaun Ryder
- Bootie Brown
- Roots Manuva
- Martina Topley-Bird
- MF Doom
- Ike Turner
- Dennis Hopper
- And others...

Gorillaz is a clever album with top quality control: even though it's an experiment, they don't just chuck any track on here (although I can't say the same for the endless B-sides and rarities albums). But more than anything, it's fun. It wound me up when a leading reviewer said Damon Albarn should stop "hiding behind his characters" (he compared it to Rod Hull pretending he couldn't control Emu). Why can't we play along with the idea that Gorillaz is a band made up of a possessed drummer, a guy with blue hair, a then 11-year-old girl and an alleged paedophile?

Gorillaz is a cracking debut album. Russel, 2D, Noodle and Murdoc should be proud.

Spotify link.